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Innovative Road Transport Equipment, Repairs and Maintenance


29th April 2015

From May 1, 2015, the Auckland Branch of Fruehauf NZ will have moved.

Our new Service & Manufacturing location is 21 Hobill Ave, Manuaku. Service Manager Paul Cranston and Assistant Roy Rhodin will be located here. All deliveries for Auckland inventory and parts are to be delivered to this site.

Our new Sales & Administration building is Unit 1/36 Hobill Ave, Manukau.

PO Box & Phone numbers are unchanged

PO Box 76 755, Manukau City, Auckland 2241

Phone: 09 267 3679



25 February 2015


The two experienced industry men Phil Watchorn and Jeff Mear are now celebrating their fifth anniversary with the renamed Fruehauf NZ Ltd, which operates from locations in Fielding and Auckland and currently employs over 80 staff. While the partners are exceedingly happy with the company’s growth, Phil points out that it has been a steep learning curve and they have made mistakes along the way. Buying a trailer manufacturer in 2009 at the lowest point in the Global Financial Crisis and during a period when transport legislation was in a state of flux and the best configuration of trailers for the future was so unclear that few operators would risk building a new trailer, was obviously a huge punt. Phil and Jeff, and their wives Karen and Yvette, committed everything they had to the iconic Fruehauf brand. The son of pioneering transport operator Bert Watchorn, Phil has been involved in transport all his life. 


Although he had been a driver and operator prior to buying Fruehauf, Phil also worked in many other roles over his 40 year career in New Zealand and Australia. Throughout this time he has been closely associated with operating and managing Fruehauf trailer equipment, either towing them or buying them. He admired them as a child when new trailers joined the Watchorn fleet, and Bert said Fruehauf were the best trailers available. In 2009 he knew that the Fruehauf product was still sound, even though the business was in trouble. Jeff spent 19 years with Roadmaster Trailers and the two worked closely when Phil was National Fleet Manager of Orix and bought trailers through Jeff. Their combined backgrounds provided a sound knowledge of the industry and Fruehauf NZ Ltd was formed with a 50/50 shareholding. 

Soon after the purchase, Phil (and Karen) moved to Feilding where he managed the Fruehauf head office and workshop, while Jeff

stayed in Auckland and looked after the sales. Karen worked in the Feilding office. Her role has grown significantly with the company, and she now looks after HR, marketing, as well as numerous other duties Phil passes on. Jeff works on making sales, which took off when legislation evolved making optimum trailer dimensions much clearer. Phil and Jeff make it clear that their customers play a huge part in Fruehauf NZ’s success. Consulting with customers in the earlier months, it was obvious that service had to improve and solutions had to be found. Phil says in the early days before they took over even the simple drawbar stand was an optional extra, and if a customer wanted one fitted it was an extra cost. They now attempt to make everything as driver friendly as possible. He says they ensure their trailers can be operated safely; they won’t build designs that are likely to jam fingers in the dark and fit grab handles and footsteps as standard. Phil says proudly, “We offer solutions and innovation to our customers.” As the business built up, the Fielding workforce grew and there are currently over 60 staff in the workshop. Phil points out that many of the staff are highly experienced employees who have been involved in the industry for years, but they do have ongoing recruitment of staff to fill apprenticeship roles. When it comes to trailer building, he says, “I believe we have a wide range

of New Zealand Transport expertise, second to none.” The sales workforce has grown too. Jeff manages two salespeople in the North Island and one in the South Island. He spends a lot of time working with the designers and engineers, aiding communication between the customers and those responsible for the finished product. Some customers have said over the years that Feilding’s distance from their main routes and servicing zones was costing them excess time and money, especially when getting new truck bodies built and servicing carried out. The partners found a solution when an Auckland trailer builder closed down in December 2011. Fruehauf took on the company’s three staff and set up an Auckland workshop in Wiri.


This Auckland operation has boomed and now has over 20 workshop staff. Line haul customers inevitably have downtime in the region and Fruehauf can service their gear without significant time and expense involved in getting it to and from the workshop. In fact two tractor units with full time drivers are available to tow trailers in or out of the workshops, or between Fruehauf’s two sites. Phil says that most new trucks come in through Auckland and it’s usually cost effective to build truck bodies there, although if they are building a matching trailer the two are usually built in Feilding. New trailers are mostly built in Feilding and Phil says that the Fielding facility is still their main production workshop and remains the primary facility in their 10-year plan, even though they expect further growth in Auckland. The majority of trailers Fruehauf build are the robust units seen on the roads every day, the company having focused on making them better for drivers and operators. They have made some interesting innovations, including gates inside some curtainsiders which hang from sliding rails and make loading safer, then act as restraints for loads. When not used they can be slid forward to make side loading available. Walking floors have also become a part of Fruehauf’s order book. Increasingly better designs mean faster unloading with minimal damage to sensitive freight such as parcels and bulk vegetables. It was in 1969 that Feilding trailer builders, the Domett family first formed an alliance with the Fruehauf Trailer Corporation from the USA. The alliance allowed them to access design material from the giant US based company, and bringing in the best designs from overseas is a tradition that continues with the current company. Phil and Jeff visited the last Hanover Truck Show in Germany and found a solution for New Zealand’s K&S Freighters in the form of French company Libner’s bodies. Since then Fruehauf have fitted Libner sliding bodies to four of their truck and trailers. The completed units look like a low height curtainsider, with container style doors on the rear, but the sides and roof can be easily slid forward or back to allow loading from an overhead gantry, or a regular forklift. The bodies allow carting of almost anything that will fit within a

curtainsider or on a flat deck. Fruehauf also build a rugged US designed ribbed bathtub tipper in either steel or aluminium. It has been popular with demolition operators as their work has increased over recent years. Phil and Jeff are heavily involved in the innovative new B-train design that can cart 40ft and 20ft loaded containers at the same time. The 23 metre long combination is H rated and utilises 10 axles (including the truck axles) to carry maximum loads. Fruehauf also build monocoque steel livestock trailers and have a semi-trailer mounted with a ‘V’-bin which has a conveyor in the bottom of the ‘V’. This is successfully carting potatoes in Hawkes Bay. They have also built a trailer to house a 25 tonne concrete pump that has an extendable boom which is now in operation after the Christchurch earthquakes. The partners are now updating the business and strategy plan for the next 10 years. It’s safe to bet that there is plenty of growth and innovation still to come from the revitalised Fruehauf NZ Ltd.